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    I Wore A Skirt And Found A New Sense of Freedom, But The Patriarchy Lost Its Mind

    After I came out, I discovered the beauty of gender expression.

    Jacoblund / Getty Images/iStockphoto

    I thought I was finally free to express myself.

    Men in skirts were once nothing special. Yet the toxic powers of the patriarchy tightened the grip on Western culture, and suddenly gender expressions like "guys in skirts" became a statement of protest and a dangerous line to cross. After I came out as bisexual, I had enough with this convention, and I crossed the line.

    There's a moment after you finally come out to the people closest to you where you feel invincible. It's brief but beautiful. That pesky padlock holding your closet door shut breaks finally, and now you are free. You're free to move differently in spaces because you're no longer living for others' insecurities. The next step in my journey was my gender expression.

    I want to understand bisexuality beyond the binary.

    The binary constantly haunts me. The way I grew up, little boys should be wary of even wearing a shade of purple. I was taught boys like girls, girls wear dresses, and I should be interested in sports like football. It's dangerous to detour this ideology in a conservative city like my hometown of Bakersfield, California. None of this made sense to me since I found myself attracted to boys and girls at a very young age. I think nothing rests in the middle of any circumstance, including my sexuality. How I define my attraction and sexuality is my business. I feel the same about my gender expression. Kids shouldn't have to choose between monster trucks or baby dolls. Adults shouldn't have to decide to wear pleated pants or a pleated skirt. Besides, in what world is forcing your kid to play with muscle-bound G.I. Joes in tight uniforms going to make him straighter?

    Bisexuality is the romantic or sexual attraction toward males, females, or more than one gender. It includes attraction to people regardless of their sex or gender identity. But different people define it in many ways.

    Gender expression is how someone expresses their gender identity through their attitude, appearance, or dress.

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    If my bisexuality is fluid, what if I could wear what I wanted when I wanted, wherever I wanted? The conventional rules never made sense, so it was my chance to throw them out once and for all. I enjoyed every element of my being free from the confines of a binary. Men everywhere traditionally wear skirts like the Scottish kilt, the Japanese hakama, or the sarong of Asia and Africa. What could go wrong if I put on a dress?

    So, I put on a skirt, and just like that, my brief moment of invincible peace was gone. Damn.

    What inspired me to put on the skirt?

    Harry Styles performing onstage while dressed like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz
    Theo Wargo / Getty Images for HS

    Remember that iconic moment in one of the worst years of millennial existence when Harry Styles became the first man to wear a dress on the cover of Vogue in 2020? I know he wasn't the first celebrity man to wear a dress. (The internet tried to cancel people over this fact.) Yet it marked a pivotal moment in popular culture. Harry's magazine spread was a modern fashion statement and accepted. It was that punky Gucci jacket and the Little House on the Prairie blue dress combo that became the inspiration for my skirt debut, but not the moment that gave me courage.

    This moment changed everything for me.

    Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

    To courage, I credit stage and television actor Billy Porter. I can pinpoint the day and time when I watched him walk down the red carpet in that billowing, black tuxedo dress, gliding across the red felt like rainbow royalty. Porter was a Broadway fixture quickly on the rise to becoming a television icon. He wasn't just a comedian looking for a laugh or a screaming rock star searching for shock value. At this moment, it was more than just a protest or a punchline. That dress was for no one else but Billy Porter. As an American Black man in a dress, we face a different hostility based on our culture and upbringing. But now I felt prepared for my big moment in a dress. 

    The time I tried to break the binary and broke down.

    Myke Thompson/ BuzzFeed

    In the Spring of 2021, I attended my first gay wedding. No opportunity was more fitting than this to wear my brand-new Hot Topic pleated, plaid skirt. I showed up in a velvet blazer, Linkin Park shirt, and my new favorite clothing item — the plaid skirt. I was a man in a dress, celebrated for my unconventional choice. I wore the skirt, finally as free on the outside as I felt on the inside. Able to show off my Megan Thee Stallion knees at ease, I felt like toxic heteronormative standards didn't predetermine my image for the first time.

    When midnight struck, my queer-filled Cinderella moment came to an end. I quickly remembered whatever inclusion happens at a gay wedding stays at a gay wedding. In a wedding full of gays, lesbians, and LGBTQ+ supportive family and friends, I was the belle of the nonconforming ball. I forgot what hate was waiting for me on the outside, and it nearly crushed me.

    When I received this response from someone close, I knew this struggle was just the beginning.

    Myke Thompson/ BuzzFeed

    The veil of my masculine-dominant bisexuality faded like my follower count as family and friends one by one dropped me like an old, stale Skittle falling from the sky in a '90s commercial. The skirt was too far. As a bisexual Black man, I walk a very fine line of what's acceptable or what can change the narrative of my sexuality through expression. If I dress too masculine, I'm on the down-low. If I dress too feminine, I'm gay. We should be free to wear what we like without critical judgment. Instead, impossible standards force us to an unattainable image of the perfect man or woman. Bullying, harassment, and violence against people based on their gender expression are increasing problems now that cyberbullying has entered the chat in the last few decades. How you decide to express yourself has become a gateway to others to voice their fear and ridicule of what they don't understand. Even more so, predominant Black culture in media is plagued by unnecessary rules rooted in homophobia.

    What's so wrong with a Black man in a dress?

    Why did it matter that I was a bisexual, Black man in a skirt? Personally, the skirt changed nothing about my sexuality or gender identity. If anything, it was a protest of my power.

    Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

    If I'm going to cross the line and step into my freedom of expression, I will be met with opposition. I must make the choice to embrace my identity knowing that unattainable standards, emasculation conspiracies, and hate will be used against me. The choice to wear the skirt will be a protest. 

    In April 2021, Kid Cudi wore a floral dress designed by Off White's Virgil Abloh during his "Sad People" performance from his 2020 album Man on the Moon III: The Chosen. Inspired by Kurt Cobain, Kid Cudi stated that it was "rock and roll" to wear the dress and received backlash. Billy Porter and Harry Styles gave me courage, but moments like this gave me a new purpose. There was no escaping the hate. The price for living in my truth left me vulnerable. If I was going to survive this journey, I needed to channel this "rock and roll" energy.

    Haters are going to hate. Live your truth.

    Jersey Shore / MTV / Via

    There's something evolutionary about sitting at rock bottom. Between the moments of extreme pain, you have a sense of clarity where you look up and realize you know better, and getting back to that good place won't be as hard the second time around. Whether it's Billy Porter serving looks on the red carpet, Harry Styles setting trends on the cover of Vogue, or the revolutionary Tilda Swinton rocking a tuxedo better than any being on Earth, we must embrace our individuality and expression. I refuse to allow hatred to monitor the volume of my truth, and I'll wear a dress as loud and nonbinary as I want! 

    Nothing can stop me — my skirt is all the way up!

    Myke Thompson/ BuzzFeed

    I put my shame on layaway, bought three more skirts, a few sets of knee-high socks (rainbow pair included), and never looked back at the haters. My gender expression extends who I am and doesn't change anything about who I am inside. Are a lot of closed-minded people going to have a problem with that? Maybe. Is it going to stop me? Nope. I had a taste of freedom, and I'm never going back!